The Project Based Learning Activity entitled “Raising Awareness of Modern Day Slavery (Child Labor)” focuses on twenty-first century skills such as creativity, innovation, collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking, teaching others, ethical and emotional awareness, cultural competence, managing time and resources. My two middle school classes created the driving questions for their projects. My grade six’ class decided to create a driving question of “How can we create a commercial to raise awareness of child labor?” Grade seven’s driving question was “How can we create a story to raise awareness of child labor?” (click on attached Renae Townsend G21 PBL Project)
My students followed three rubrics from Buck Institute, the creativity & innovation rubric, collaboration rubric, and presentation rubrics to help them understand and apply the project expectations. Throughout each class period, students had a project work report where they signed a group contract, created a project calendar, decided on task roles, coordinated a presentation day checklist, and completed a self-reflections on their project work (both daily and final project). You can access all of these handouts at following Digital Destinations wiki space, entitled the PBL St Kit Project Management Tools. During this project work report, my students reflected everyday in schoology under the class group that I created. The schooogy interface offered direction for my students so that they could see what each group was doing and could provide feedback to each other.
The reproducibility of the project by others was implemented when the GMS Language teachers asked my students to participate in the Language Fair. This amazing opportunity allowed for a public presentation of my student projects, even when the technological parts of their projects were not entirely finished. Fortunately, my students had done the majority of their research, so they were able to present their information in an oral presentation during the fair. They also supplemented their oral presentations with a “hands on” activity of having their audience create pinwheels and write down specific statistics related to child labor on the pinwheels. The impact of the learning for my students was emphasized when my one student, Cassidy, stepped to the front of the room and made a spontaneous and “improvised” presentation to her audience. What was remarkable about her presentation was the knowledge she demonstrated of the content and the enthusiasm she showed.
Finally, the impact technology had toward learning is demonstrated in the fact that my students were able to create multimedia presentations on an i-pad or the computer using several different apps in the workflow which incorporated planning, creation, and authoring or publishing on the one device. On the SAMR model, I believe that my students achieved the modification and possibly the redefinition level. They created i-movie commercials and a power point story, which they hope to display publically in the following ways. One, they will visit classrooms to present their projects to classmates. Second, they created QR codes that they will put up throughout the hallways of the school, to draw attention to their work and to spread the word about child labor. Finally, they will publish their stories on the Richmond Justice Initiative website, which will be displayed to the general public. The work will be sent (with parental consent) to RJI as soon as it is signed.
The advice I would provide for a colleague wanting to undertake this same project is to be willing to make changes or supplement materials while students are completing the project. Sometimes I had to tailor the scaffolding for specific groups with very short notice. For example, I noticed that students really struggled with was the creativity requirement of the project (especially my seventh grade boys). I had to provide scaffolding for them throughout the project. For example, I helped them create a story line diagram with plot/climax/etc, provide them handouts on power verbs/adjectives to insert into the story. While my sixth grade girls worked amazingly well together as collaborators, I noticed that my seventh grade boys had no knowledge of how to work together or collaborate. My solution was to create a separate activity for them where we focused on the language of collaboration. See Collaboration_Scaffolding_Worksheet. We also created a word wall so that the boys could refer to the language of collaboration while they were working. Both groups of students really struggled with sequence; or where to insert their research and authentic expert information into their projects. ***Remarkably, the authentic expert information for seventh grade was gleaned from the first hand experiences of one of my Mexican students who had first hand experience of crossing the border.
Additional advice for colleagues wanting to undertake this same project would relate to my own experiences as a teacher in implementing the PBL. When I actually decided to implement my lesson plan with my students, I experienced some anxiety. For the first time, I wasn’t in charge as a teacher and I had to force myself to “go with the flow.” My students decided the “driving questions” and they “set the calendar dates,” which was contrary to everything I’ve ever done as a teacher. Again, my biggest challenge was to know when I was required to step out and let my student’s take charge and when I was required to step in and provide scaffolding or additional exercises for my students.
What I might change about the experience, as documented in my plan is the following. First off, I would suggest that a teacher actually spend more time observing and understanding the ins and outs of a PBL before they implement it in the classroom setting. Perhaps they could visit other classes and collaborate with other teachers before they implement the project in their own class. I didn’t have this experience and it would have helped me in the implementation of the PBL in my classroom. Before implementing the PBL in my class, I spent a lot of time viewing videos of other schools that are implementing PBLs, researching Buck Institute lesson plans, gathering the rubrics, understanding what a driving question was, and understanding how to create a “Project Wall.” The PBL course that Dr. Hendron offered this past winter made this experience possible. I spent a lot of time outlining the PBL lesson; but the learning curve for me was greater than I anticipated.
Here are two of the finished products: